The removal of radioactive contamination caused by Tokyo Electric Power Co’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is an important and urgent task as Japan strives to push reconstruction efforts forward in areas struck by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Decontamination will be carried out in 104 municipalities across eight prefectures in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. The central government will carry out decontamination in areas close to the nuclear power plant while municipal governments will do the work in areas where aerial radiation levels measure one millisievert per year or more.
The central government should actively help local governments with their decontamination efforts. For example, it should give them information on what kinds of methods should be employed and to what degree decontamination must be carried out. It also should provide sufficient assistance to ensure that radiation levels are accurately measured in food, water and geographic locations.
An important element essential to the decontamination efforts is the construction of intermediate sites to store contaminated soil. Under the central government’s plan, radioactively contaminated soil will be kept at intermediate storage sites for 30 years before being shipped to a final disposal site. If the intermediate storage sites are not constructed, decontamination work will grind to a halt.
The central government has announced a plan to construct three intermediate storage facilities in the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Naraha, all in Fukushima Prefecture and near the plant.
Having faced the danger of radiation and now experiencing tremendous difficulties living away from their homes, evacuees from these towns are deeply concerned about their future prospects and harbor a deep distrust of the central government and Tepco. Unless the central government explains the need for the storage facilities with sincerity and provides a detailed explanation on how they will ensure the safety of such facilities, the three municipal governments will not agree to their construction.
The central and local governments concerned need to present clear plans on how they intend to carry out their decontamination efforts. They then need to restore lifelines to those most affected through the improvement of infrastructure and greater employment opportunities for residents once it is safe for them to return home.